honey bees vs yellow jackets

Honeybees vs Yellowjackets

If you’ve ever seen a flying black and yellow insect and wondered whether it’s a honeybee or yellowjacket, you’re not alone. Many people often can’t tell the difference between the two but, truth be told, they couldn’t be more different.

In fact, yellowjackets are wasps, not bees. They are also known to be more aggressive, but what other differences are there, and are they similar in any way? Keep reading to find out.

Differentiating Between Honeybees and Yellowjackets

Apart from the fact that one is a wasp and the other is a bee, there are other ways to tell them apart.

Appearance

Both the honeybee and the yellowjacket are black and yellow. However, yellowjackets are much brighter in color. Their yellow features are also shinier and easier to distinguish. Honeybees are more of an amber tone.

Yellowjacket

Another feature that only honeybees have is hair. Honeybees are quite fuzzy, the hair covers their thorax, top of the head, and legs. They use the hair to collect pollen as they land on a flowering plant.

bee life cycle
Honeybee

Yellowjackets are smooth, they also have that pinched waist which is a signature for wasps. Honeybees are fatter looking, with a solid body.

Take a look at the antennae; the honeybee’s antennae has a bent point at the center. Yellowjackets have straight and black antennae.

Colonies and Nests

Both the honeybee and yellowjacket are known to live in large colonies. A honeybee colony can easily keep up to 60,000 individuals. A yellowjacket nest can also be home to thousands of insects.

Honeybee and yellowjacket colonies consist of a queen, workers, and drones. They actually share a lot of similarities when it comes to the roles within the colony.

Queens will lay eggs, and drones will wait around for a queen to mate with. The workers take care of the nest, build new cells, and collect resources.

Both queens are powerful; however, the yellowjacket queen is more independent, in comparison to the honeybee. She can start up her own colony without the help of workers or drones.

The yellowjacket queen will gather wood fibers, which she then chews to mix with her saliva. After this, she will construct the nest. Some yellowjackets build their nests in old underground burrows, while others choose sites in or around houses.

Yellowjacket nest

Honeybee queens, on the other hand, are completely dependent on the help of worker bees. Whenever a colony is getting too crowded, the ruling queen will leave the nest along with a group of workers.

She will find a safe place to rest, while the workers swarm around her to protect her. Scout bees will set out to find a new nesting site. Once they have found the perfect spot, they will lead the queen to the new location.

This action is also known as swarming. It’s a way for the colony to control their population, it’s also a way for a new queen to emerge.

Yellowjackets are not known to swarm.

Diet

The diets of honeybees and yellowjackets couldn’t be more different for the most part. Honeybees feed on nectar and pollen, which they extract and collect from various flowering plants. Honeybees have specialized mouthpieces that they use to extract nectar.

Yellowjackets are well-known picnic thieves. These wasps love to feed on sugary drinks, fruits, and meats. Their favorite meals, however, are flies and bees.

During spring and summer, if you’re enjoying a cool drink outdoors, it’s crucial to check before taking a sip. You never know if a yellowjacket has made its way into your beverage. Another thing yellowjackets are known to feed on is nectar, which they get from flowers.

Are They Aggressive?

Both honeybees and yellowjackets are known to be aggressive, however, the reason for their aggression varies. Honeybees will become aggressive whenever they feel like they or their hive is threatened.

Honeybees are not too keen on stinging though. Only the female can sting, but once she does this, she will die. Her stinger is barbed, therefore, she can’t pull it out again without disemboweling herself.

Yellowjackets will become aggressive when disturbed. They will attack, inflicting very painful stings. They can, and will, sting several times, as their stingers are smooth and can easily be removed after stinging.

Both honeybees and yellowjackets inject venom when they sting. The venom causes instant pain and redness.

Neither honeybee nor yellowjacket drones have stingers, though, therefore they can’t sting.

Getting Rid of Honeybees vs Yellowjackets

Unless you own an apiary, you might not be interested in having honeybees in your yard. Worst case scenario: the honeybees turn out to be a yellowjacket colony.

One of the most common ways to get rid of a honeybee colony is with the help of a beekeeper. Beekeepers will usually bring along a box with a honeycomb inside.

The bees will be attracted to the honeycomb and come flying. The beekeeper will then close the box and the honeybees can be moved safely.

Yellowjackets, on the other hand, require a few more drastic moves. It’s crucial that you call for professional help if you suspect a yellowjacket nest on your property. Since these wasps are extremely aggressive, it’s important you remove the nest with care.

You can call a pest controller who will then come to your house. The professional will inject a specialized pesticide into the opening where the wasps are spotted. The poison will quickly kill all the insects inside.

Yellowjackets and honeybees actually share a predator—birds. There are a few bird species who enjoy the occasional bee or wasp meal, especially during summer.

Summary

Honeybees are often mistaken for yellowjackets, and vice versa. However, now you know that there are many differences. The first variation you might notice is the color, as yellowjackets are brighter.

If you notice honeybees in your yard, please don’t use pesticides to kill them. They are important pollinators, therefore, if you don’t want them, call a professional.

Yellowjackets are notorious for being highly aggressive. They are so famous for it that several other flying species have imitated their look to scare off predators.

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